Drod Hagag matched a ULEB Cup record with 11 steals as Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem took a major step forward in its race for a spot in the elimination rounds with an 85-62 home win over Lukoil Academic Sofia on Tuesday night. Jerusalem improved to 4-4 in Group C, the same record as Academic, but has the tiebreaker advantage after losing the first game by only 2 points. Hapoel, which didn't use Tamar Slay and played Ed Cota for only 7 minutes, didn't start well and was down 8-17 in the first quarter. But the hosts finished the opening period with 6 unanswered points and started the second quarter in form as it dominated on the way to the club's biggest win of the season. Mario Austin finished with a double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds, Meir Tapiro was close to a triple-double with 16 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds, Timmy Bowers added 15 points and Hagag came off the bench to score 12 points and grab 11 steals. Riste Stefanov led Lukoil with 13 points, Todor Stoykov added 12, former Jerusalem player Lamont Jones finished with 11 points and Mate Skelin posted 8 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists.
Lukoil won the opening tip and Taliek Brown put his team first on the board before Jurica Golemac tied the score at 2-2. Stefanov connected from long-range and used a scoring drought by Hapoel to give his team a 2-5 lead after three-and-a-half minutes. Tapiro scored twice from the line to put Hapoel on top for the first time, 8-7, but Gjorgji Cekovski put Academic right back on top. Hapoel committed too many turnovers and saw Jones step up with a three-point shot before Mate Skelin finished a fast break to give Lukoil an 8-17 lead and force Hapoel coach Dan Shamir to take a timeout. The locals woke up in time as Tapiro and Bowers pulled their team to a 14-17 deficit after 10 minutes. Golemac opened the second quarter with a three-pointer, but Lukoil came right back with three-point plays by Stefanov and Jones. Austin missed a lay in, but after three minutes Hapoel was back in the game. The home team dominated the defensive boards and ran on fast breaks for easy points, tying the score at 23-23. It was Austin who finally put Hapoel back on top with 4 straight points, the last of them with a power slam, and Lukoil needed a time out to recover from a 10-1 run. Once again Hapoel had too many turnovers and Tapiro came back from the bench to replace Bowers. The Lamonts – Jones and Barnes – brought Lukoil to minus-1 with 2 minutes remaining in the half, but Tapiro and Austin pushed Hapoel forward. Cekovski's three brought his team closer, but Guy Pnini with two from the line and Tapiro at the buzzer set the halftime score at 39-33.
Hagag started the second half with two lay ups, before Tapiro and Austin capped an 8-0 run that put Hapoel up 47-33 and sent Lukoil to a quick timeout. Stefanov scored the first two points for Lukoil in the second half, but Hapoel didn't let go of its margin. Jones's fade-away three-pointer from the corner beat the shot clock only to see Bowers score a much simpler shot from the same range, 52-40. Stoykov scored his first three-pointer of the night after five missed shots, then slashed to the rim for an easy layup, and added a long three to mark a personal 0-8 run and force Hapoel to take timeout at 52-48. Tapiro scored 4 in a row and calmed things down for the locals, but Austin made it a double-digit game once again. Hagag's three-point buzzer-beater made it 61-48 after 30 minutes. Hagag made his eight steal of the night in the first minute of the fourth quarter, drew an unsportsmanlike foul and Hapoel went ahead 66-48. Bowers was the first to set the margin at 20 and Hapoel showed no mercy. Hagag used the remaining minutes to tie the competition record for steals with 11, before he was awarded with a standing ovation and center Erez Marckovich scored a rare three-pointer to set the final score at 85-62.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006